Black Bears in Bangor: Football Players Walk Kids to School 

Students at a Bangor school are taking a break from the typical bus route and putting their walking shoes on.

The Maine Walking School Bus Program provides area schools with an alternative form of transportation and special guests to get them there.

We tagged along.

It’s not every day you get a personal escort to school from the Black Bears.

It’s off season for these UMaine Football players, but that doesn’t mean they’re taking it easy.

“I think they need exercise too, and they’re saying to me it’s hard,” said Zander, a student at Vine Street School.

The Maine Walking School Bus Program is an opportunity for kids to get outside and interact with members of the community.

That’s just what these students at the Vine Street School are doing.

“So Abraham Lincoln, Downeast and Vine Street now have this program,” said Lynn Silk, Principal of Vine Street School. “The students are really enjoying the opportunity to walk with the players, talk about football and the importance of doing well in school so that you can pursue things like football at the university level.”

“The best part of the walk today is kind of, well, stopping and taking a break because you get tired from walking and walking and walking,” said Annika, a student at Vine Street School.

And during those breaks…

“He’s my favorite player,” said Zander. “And I know he likes LeBron.”

“It means a lot,” said UMaine defensive back, Jeffrey Devaughn. “It really means a lot.”

This program does much more than get kids off the school bus. Faculty say it improves student learning and behavior and reduces absenteeism.

And most importantly…

“That they like me,” said Zander.

It creates new friendships.

“Being involved in the community means so much to kids like this,” said Devaughn. “So I’m just honored to be someone’s favorite player and someone to look up to and be a perfect role model in the community.”

“I think that’s the biggest eye-opener for our guys, is just how much the young kids in the area look up to them,” said UMaine Football Coach, Joe Harasymiak. “Especially when they have their jerseys on. That’s how they see them all the time, with a helmet and jersey, but then they get to interact with them. It’s a great opportunity for our guys to see how much of an impact they can make in the community.”

The Vine Street School started this program a week and a half ago.

Students and community volunteers walk every morning, rain or shine.

They hope to add more kids throughout the school year.